Morganton Day School Faculty and Staff
Please feel free to contact us for more information or questions.
Melanie Mikusa Ed.D, Head of School
Morganton Day School has been an important part of my life for almost 20 years. I began my MDS career in 1996 teaching Kinders and 1st grade. Creating an environment of joyful learning sparked my own interest in returning to school, penultimately becoming National Board certified and earning my Master’s degree in Reading and Special Education. Recently, I completed my Doctorate in Educational Leadership. It is my privilege to work with the finest students, faculty/staff, parents, and dedicated board everyday. As an IB school, we are a community of global citizens preparing to play an important role in the future.
Denise Pitts, Office Manager
During my 10 years at MDS, I have enjoyed watching as the children race to class each morning. The atmosphere in the school promotes learning; I am extremely happy to spend each day in this extremely engaging environment. In addition to my role as Office Manager, I often find myself bandaging boo-boos and taking temperatures. Every day is a wonderful adventure at MDS!
Treesie Cape, Curriculum Coordinator
I have been a member of the MDS community for eighteen years, and I am passionate about the teaching and learning that takes place at this school! I am honored to have had the opportunity to be a teacher, a parent, and am currently serving as the curriculum coordinator. I hold a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree in administration, certification in Orton-Gillingham and All Kinds of Minds, and certification as an IB educator through the International Baccalaureate Educator Network. My two children attend Morganton Day School in fourth and seventh grades. As a parent, I cherish the frequent opportunities to support concepts learned at school through conversations at home that are interwoven into our daily lives. As an educator, I am honored to collaborate with motivated, talented teachers.
Lower School Faculty
Casey Bonkowske, Junior Kindergarten
I am a wife and mother of two. My husband works for Morganton Eye Physicians as a Corneal Specialist. My daughter, Taryn, and my son, Jacoby, both attend Morganton Day School. I graduated from University of Missouri with a B.S. degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. I then received my Masters Degree in Administration from William Woods University. I now have over 12 years teaching experience. In addition to my work in the classroom, I was also a Literacy Coach for elementary educators for one year as well as a Primary Reading Teacher for one year in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School District. I wholeheartedly believe in our IB curriculum and I am honored to foster and develop inquirers in our JK program. There is nothing more beautiful than witnessing and embracing the innate curiosity that a child has, and we love to celebrate that in our program. As a mom and a teacher, I am excited to be a part of this journey along side of you!
Brandie Martin, Junior Kindergarten
Erin Mishoe, Junior Kindergarten
Erin Mishoe is in her first year of teaching at MDS. She is in the JK4 classroom with Mrs. Bonkowske. She has previously worked with the Burke County Literacy Council and Western Piedmont Community College.
Ms. Mishoe graduated from Marshall University with a bachelors degree in Sport Management and Marketing, a masters degree in Athletic Administration and a masters in teaching. Prior to moving to Morganton, she worked in college athletics and administration. She is currently taking a course in early childhood education and studying to get her elementary education add-on to her teaching license.
Ms. Mishoe moved to Morganton five years ago from West Virginia with her two children. Gracie is a sophomore at Freedom High School and Liam is a 5th grader at Forest Hill Elementary School. Though her kids keep her busy, Ms. Mishoe enjoys running, hiking, going to the gym, reading, and going to music concerts
Elizabeth O’Hagan, Junior Kindergarten
William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I am proud to help fan the flames at Morganton Day School. I have been at MDS for 7 years first as a parent, then volunteer, then a teacher. I am thrilled to enter the Junior Kindergarten 3-year-old classroom this year after three years in 1st grade. Early education is vital to future school success. As the mother of three Morganton Day School students (two alumni), I deeply appreciate the philosophy of the school and dedication of the faculty. My own education includes a BS in Psychology from Lees-McRae College and work towards completion of a Masters Degree from Lenoir Rhyne University. I will complete my Early Childhood Preschool certification at WPCC this year.
Melanie Miller, Kindergarten
Having been born and raised in Morganton, my heart lies in it’s future. The future of our community walks through my door each morning, so I make it my goal to send back out my door hands willing to make a change, no matter how small those hands may be! Education is a scaffolding event, and the love of education is deep rooted within those who are met at their level of readiness from the start. Here at Morganton Day School I have the power to do just that for each precious learner that comes my way. What a privilege! Having graduated from Lees McRae College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education, I am certain that inquiry methods are best for learning. I have many hobbies some of which include: crossfit, running, hiking, enjoying time with my husband and dog, and reading.
Chelsey Chue, 1st Grade
This past year I graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, got married, and bought a house. So, one could say my life has been a rollercoaster ride with all the changes I have made or been faced with however, the one thing that has been a constant in my life is my love for teaching. A scholar once said “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” and teaching at MDS has never once felt like work but instead opportunity. I have the opportunity to work with young minds that will someday change the world. The moment I walked into the building I knew MDS was the only place for me. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
Stephanie Cook, 2nd Grade
I am very passionate about teaching, and I believe every child can learn. I consider myself a lifelong learner, and enjoy attending conferences and workshops to learn more about education. I am excited to teach and find it unbelievable that this is my sixth year teaching second grade at Morganton Day School. As a graduate of Lees-McRae College, with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, I believe the inquiry method of instruction at MDS is the best way to nurture students’ natural curiosity.
I am a wife to my amazing husband, mom to two daughters, and a bonus mom to my stepson. In my free time I enjoy reading, going to the mountains with my husband, and spending time with my kids.
Jenna Holt, 3rd Grade
When I moved to Morganton and visited MDS I knew this was the place I wanted to teach! Students were spread out all over the room but actively engaged in their work. I have been privileged to be a teacher at MDS for 10 years and plan to stay here FOREVER!!!! MDS offers a genuine learning environment where every child can thrive. As our curriculum is hands on/minds on, students explore the world around them and make real connections, building a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning. My education: I am a graduate of Lynchburg College in Virginia with a BA in Child Development with certification K-6. I also hold a Master’s Degree from Appalachian State University in Middle Grades Social Studies. Outside of MDS I love spending time with my family, kayaking, going to the beach, and reading a great book!
Hillary Kline, 4th Grade
I wanted a strong academic foundation for my son, a place where his excitement for learning would be nurtured, and his curiosity would be cultivated. We found this at Morganton Day School. He became a student and two years later I was given the opportunity to teach fourth grade at this outstanding school. I graduated from Lees McRae in 2006 with a degree in elementary education. I taught multiple grade levels, but spent most of my career teaching fifth grade science in the public school system. This is my second year teaching fourth grade at MDS. I enjoy children, music, dogs, and exploring our world. I love teaching and the daily joy I receive from our students. I am excited to be part of a school where children are given the opportunity to think for themselves and teachers are given the time to be creative and inspire enthusiasm for learning.
Middle Grades Faculty
Andrew Field, Middle School/English
Hello! I’m Mr. Field. Welcome to Middle School English! I look forward to getting to know you. A bit about me: I’m from the West, and have lived in six different states. I went the University of New Mexico and took my B.A. in English in 2011. I continued my education at the University of South Carolina where I took an M.A. degree in English in 2013. I have been at MDS for 4 years, and I love every minute of it. My favorite author is either Thomas Pynchon or William Shakespeare. My favorite poet is Emily Dickinson. Outside of school, I love to rock climb, hike, and spend time with friends and family.
Britta Gramer, Humanities/STEAM Coordinator
Having been a part of the MDS community for 8 years, I have been privileged to wear many hats in the MDS Middle School. Currently, I teach 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Humanities, I co-teach our S.T.E.A.M. class, help with electives, oversee S.A.C. (Student Action Council), and coordinate numerous middle school activities and events. I am a graduate of Appalachian State University with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and a minor in Biology, a middle grades teaching certification in social studies and science, and am currently working on my Master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages) through Greensboro College. My passions include spending time with my family, taking a VARIETY of classes and workshops, seeing live music, learning to work with plants, understanding biomimicry, and just learning to fully process this journey called life. And when I grow up, I want to work for National Geographic or the United Nations. A quote that inspires my daily work with students is, “ If you want a group to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” With each lesson I create and teach for my students, it is my desire to inspire in them ‘a yearning for the vast and endless sea” so that they may go forward with a desire to learn and become mindful humans that can handle the challenges within their families, their communities, nation, and this globally, interdependent world.
Heide Putt, Math & Algebra
Upon completing my Masters in Education, I began my classroom teaching career in a Montessori middle school classroom in Charlotte over 20 years ago. After teaching all subjects in the middle school program for 10 years, I moved into middle and high school administration. Teaching, especially at the middle school level has always been my first love and so I feel very blessed to have landed at Morganton Day. In addition, the Montessori philosophy and the IB philosophy of Morganton Day are very similar, so I feel quite at home here. Most recently, I have worked at WPCC teaching math study skills as well as tutoring math and science students. In my classroom I strive to create an atmosphere of mutual respect where every student feels empowered to ask questions and confident in their gifts both in and out of the math classroom. Each year, I look forward to getting to know all the new MDS middle school students and families as well as reflecting upon how the returning students have grown.
Sarah Sawdy, Science
My name is Sarah Sawdy and I am the middle school science teacher at MDS. This is my eighth year teaching middle school science and my third year teaching at Morganton Day School. In addition to teaching the core 5th thru 8th grade science classes, I also teach STEAM, an elective every trimester and co-teach the Community Action Project (CAP) class. My son, Kendall, and my daughter, Elise, both attend Morganton Day School. I graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s in Animal Science and a Master’s in Education. Our science classroom at MDS encourages children to become student-scientists by asking questions and then creating their own investigations to test these questions. I enjoy learning with my students as they explore our world! Outside the classroom, I enjoy all things outdoors: including hiking, camping, mountain biking, kayaking, and gardening.
“Never give up. Never let things out of your control dictate who you are.”
Carolina Barbosa, Spanish
Hola! My name is Carolina Barbosa, I grew up in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. I graduated as a Child Psychologist from Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (UANL) in 2010. I worked as a Teacher Assistant in 2008 in a private school in Mexico for 2 years. When I graduated, I decided to move to North Carolina with my husband and start a new life together. We are a family of four, my oldest child attends JK3 at MDS and my youngest is an infant. As a bilingual person, I know that learning to speak a second language is a really important tool. Spanish is in the top five languages spoken around the world, so being able to read, speak, and understand it could open a lot of doors for anyone who is interested. I’ve share my experiences at MDS for the past 6 years, and believe in the IB philosophy. I do collaborate with each teacher to incorporate the units of Inquiry into the Spanish curriculum, so students are exposed to the language and the culture all the time during my class.
Ashley Craft, Music
My name is Ashley Craft and I teach MUSIC at MDS. This is my twelfth year in teaching and my eighth year at MDS. I teach at MDS because I believe in inquiry-based learning and in the importance of a strong educational community. I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Gardner Webb University. Outside of the classroom, I love spending time outdoors and enjoying time with my friends and family.
Autumn McGimsey, Technology
Hello! I’m Mrs. McGimsey. After 11 years in higher education, I made the jump over to K-8 Technology after completing my M.A. in Education Technology from Appalachian State University. I am thrilled to be able to share my love of all things digital with our MDS students. I truly believe that students build a solid foundation in 21st century skills by learning computer science and digital citizenship. This is truly a dream job! I especially enjoy incorporating coding skills into our curriculum and showing students that ANYONE can code. In addition to spending time in the computer lab, I enjoy trying out new recipes in the kitchen, reading a great book, and relaxing with my family.
Trudy Memmel, PE & Health
Fitness has always been my passion. After graduating from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, I have taught Physical Education and Health in Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina for 10 years. Through Health and Physical Education, students are able to develop and practice healthy habits that will enhance their lives. I believe that it is very important to lead by example. Whenever possible I involve myself in activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. This includes events such as performance workouts, swimming, biking, running, pilates, yoga, and the occasional competitions such as 5K , 10K, races and sprint triathlons. I have lived in Morganton for over 20 years. My husband and I have raised our four boys in North Carolina and have enjoyed the active lifestyle that this area offers. I am passionate about physical education and the mental and physical benefits it provides.
Kara Jones, Visual Arts
I love to create with the student artists here at MDS. I always say we spend the least amount of time talking about art and the most amount of doing art. Art education is mostly skill building. Our students need the space to practice hands on learning. I SHOW our artists’ ideas and techniques in all aspects of art including painting, pottery, drawing, sculpture, fibers and computer arts.
My fine art degree is from Appalachian State University where I specialized in Graphic Design. I love to paint at home with a focus on color study. My husband Bryan and my 3 kids love to spend time together outdoors, eating good food, relaxing and playing with our dog Toast.
Mrs, Lauren Carlson and Ms. Megan Downey, Afterschool Providers